July 18, 2003 12:08 PM PDT

Patent company sues Amazon

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Pinpoint, a company that says it holds several e-commerce patents, sued Amazon.com on Thursday for allegedly violating its business-method patents.

The suit, filed in the United States District Court in Chicago, also named six of Amazon's affiliated retail partners, including Borders Group, Target, Toys "R" Us and CDNow.

The lawsuit claims that Amazon violated Pinpoint's personalization technology patents--a service popularized by Amazon that allows e-commerce retailers to recommend related products or newer items to shoppers based on their purchase history at the site.

Amazon spokesman Bill Curry said the company had yet to review the suit.

Seattle-based Amazon finds itself on the other end of a lawsuit involving controversial patents known as business-method patents. In 1999, Amazon sued Barnesandnoble.com for allegedly copying Amazon's patented 1-Click technology. Business-method patents go beyond protecting invented technology and actually involve patenting a business process.

Amazon's suit unleashed several more of its kind, including Priceline.com's suit against Microsoft and its Expedia service for infringing on Priceline's business model built around its technologies that allow consumers to "name their price" for products and services. Even eBay last year faced a similar suit.

Business-patent suits, however, have also come under criticism. Last fall, the head of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office admitted that many business method patents had been wrongfully awarded in the past.

Pinpoint, based in Fort Worth, Texas, lists about a dozen of its technology patents on the company's Web site.


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